Inspiring Voices: More women in economy and in politics is the key for a better future for all the world

Aurel Dragan 18/05/2023 | 11:30

The gender equality index in Romania in 2022 was 53.7, a score that places Romania in 26th place in the European Union, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality. The European average is 68.6, and the highest level is 77.8 in Denmark. Romania is far from the European average, and it is obvious that we still have a lot to do. Gender equality also leads to economic growth, but also to the reduction of social inequities, and this was the theme of the Inspiring Voices event. Held at the InfoEuropa Center, the office for information, promotion, and dissemination of foreign policy objectives and European issues of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Empowering Women Leaders & Entrepreneurs was organized by Business Review in partnership with the Representation of the European Commission in Romania.


“Currently, when we talk about our country and women and their representativeness, we come to the conclusion that they are underrepresented both in leadership positions and in other important fields. Gender inequality is still a major problem in Romania”, said Nicoleta Munteanu, CONAF Vice-President. “Although we have been able to pass many policies and legislative measures on gender diversity, there is still a significant need for diversity in many areas, including politics, business, administration and many other areas.” The National Confederation for Female Entrepreneurship is the largest movement of the last 100 years that coagulates entrepreneurial forces to support and promote female entrepreneurship and equally promotes gender equality and equal opportunity.


H.E. Ramona Chiriac: There are five criteria that show us that we have empowered women

“According to the United Nations, there are five criteria that show us that we have empowered women. The five would be: a sense of self-worth, the right to choose, the right to have access to opportunities and resources, the right to have control over our lives, and the ability to influence the direction of social orientation to create a more just social order both nationally and internationally. We, who are here at the event, can say that we managed to fulfil the first four criteria. Minus the fifth criterion,” stated H.E. Ramona Chiriac, Head of European Commission Representation in Romania.

“Looking at the business community, I could say that things are much better in terms of the representation of women in the economic field than in the political, governmental and parliamentary decision-making space. Those who make the public policy decisions that affect all of our lives reflect a society on what is important to itself. All convey a message about how women are valued as members of society. Public policies are those that support or not the valorization of women in society.

The European project began in the economic zone and was developed in the economic zone over 71 years, which led to a de facto solidarity, as the father of the EU Robert Schumann said. Perhaps this model where we start with a success on the economic side, after which there is this much-hoped-for spillover into political life, which dictates social policies. And I would insist on the typology regarding gender roles in society and the social contract. More precisely, 43% of Romanians believe that family life suffers when the woman has a job, 48% believe that the man’s role is to earn money and the woman’s to take care of the house and children. At the same time, 96% believe that both spouses must earn money to support the family. We are facing a paradox, in which women are called to be present on the labor market, but also to take on most of the responsibilities in the family.

To make it easier to understand how gender roles have a real impact on women, I chose the example of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed not only the fragility of our societies and the way we live, but also brought to the surface the problems of gender equality and women’s participation in decision-making. For every man who lost his job in the pandemic, two women also lost theirs. The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities between women and men in all areas of the world, and has also increased domestic violence. But women have been the front line of the fight against the pandemic, and their workload has increased greatly. Women also had problems reintegrating into the workforce compared to men. Moreover, there was a striking lack of women among those who made decisions regarding the fight against the pandemic.

What we’re doing now: The European Commission adopted the Strategy for Gender Equality 2020-2025, with a vision where everyone in Europe lives in a society without violence and stereotypes, and has the opportunity to thrive and lead. The EC has also included a gender perspective in all European policy areas. A horizontal approach, with a gender policy in every sector.

Our own “Women on board” initiative started in 2012, so even at the level of the European institutions this theme was difficult to digest, but it was a success. Recently, the Council of the European Union approved our proposal, which wants the transparency of the election of the management committees of the companies listed on the European stock exchanges. And European parties that will request funding from the European Parliament are encouraged to be transparent in choosing candidates for the European Parliament.

The European Commission has proposed a gender equality of 50%, and it is currently at 45%, and wants this to be true in the European institutions as well.
A message that I constantly convey is to shift from “if” to “how” in Romania as well. Let’s stop asking if we have capable women, but how we ensure their access to positions and control policies. 2024 is an electoral year in which Romania has all possible types of electoral elections, and I want us to work together to succeed in having a representation of women at least as good as that in the economic sector”


Lara Tassan Zanin: We have to value diversity

“As the European Investment Bank, when I came to Romania in 2018 one of my first actions was to go to promote sustainable and equal opportunities in the market and in banks. So I went to the banks and told them “Let’s have a female entrepreneurship specific products” and they said No, we don’t need these products in Romania, everything is fine. Then I asked them how many female lead businesses you have in your portfolio? I was expecting rocking numbers, but they say that they don’t know. So you don’t know if you have a problem or not, and you don’t know if you need this product or not. Since that moment I never left my eyes off this topic”, says Lara Tassan Zanin, Head of European Investment Bank Group Office in Romania.

“Many years down the road we are signing today, 2022-2023, some little windows with commercial banks in Romania with products dedicated to women entrepreneurship. It took a long time, but we are getting there. My message today is about saying out loud that in Romania, like in other countries, we have a problem with gender equality. I truly believe that in order to solve a problem, first you have to admit you have one. Women count for 52% of the population but we have less than 20% female parliamentarians, only two female ministers, no female rector, one female Bank CEO. Female economic participation is at an EU record low: unaffordable in a country where investments are held back by the scarcity of labour force.

Why is this a problem? Not because someone said so and we must have more women on board. But because it is a fact that various teams, boards and parliaments make better decisions for all. Diversity is good for everyone. In Romania, it is not to have better representation is about who takes decisions. The second problem in Romania is that we don’t have enough female economic participation. IF we bring more women into the labor market in Romania, GDP will increase by 8 percent by 2030, studies show. It is important that we are the first generation that tries to find a way to cover all the things women have to do at home and also be in the workforce. We should be free to make decisions, including about the time we take for raising children. We have 95 percent of students in economic studies that are female. But five years after they graduate, only half are in the labor market. After ten years, there are only 10 to 25 percent of them in the labor market. They disappear. Top students, but connected to family pressure, peer pressure, society pressure. Some of them are happy where they are, but I bet that some of them would like to be in another position.

How can we solve this? By talking about it, by gathering data about it. Something is changing as I see more talks. And I hope that the new elections will help in this. Another part is related to education and technology. It is proven that technology and information literacy by women allow them to access more jobs and better jobs. And also for women not in Bucharest or in the largest cities, they can now learn about job opportunities better and how to access them. Another reason is that technology needs women, in the sense that we bring more innovation, we know how to manage risk. It is a fact that in the technology solutions, women founders are more working on stratups for improving our lives. Females have additional technology.

Now, there is another sad reality, that you look at women in tech we are very low in numbers. And we believe this starts from school, the primary school, from the fact that the girl has to be able to dream that she can do a career in math, in technology, in management. That is why I was adamant to bring to Romania “Women in tech. Global movement”.

We have to value diversity and see that we are all onboard for everything that we do and what we have to do in the future.”


Livia Stan: We need more women attracted to the technical sector in general

“When we talk about women’s access to the energy sector, we have nothing to brag about. A study done by the International Energy Agency in 2021 shows that only 16% of jobs in the energy sector worldwide are held by women, only 15% of women in leadership positions are held by women and, unfortunately, women they have a salary 15% lower than men in the same position, even if they have the same experience and the same level of expertise”, says Livia Stan, Public Affairs & EU Funds Director at E.ON.

“I think these numbers are worrying, but I come from a backward culture, it is a sector perceived as technical and above all, most of the work takes place far from home, on oil platforms, in distribution networks all over the country or the world , and this cannot ensure the work-life balance that women want. However, there are countries that excel in promoting women in the energy sector, countries that have done more and for a longer time. Like the Nordic countries, Sweden has a percentage of 40% of positions occupied by women in the energy sector, Norway 35%, Iceland 43%.

Spain is a country that managed to reach somewhere around 30%, which means it has advanced a lot, an example that we could follow. What these countries have done is that they have developed gender policies a long time ago, they have mentoring programs and they have programs to support and finance families and women, simple things that can be easily done anywhere. E.ON Romania has a total of 25% women in total, 40% in the TESA staff and at the level of management positions we have 35%. And in the board we have 50-50.

There are educational and cultural barriers, we need more women attracted to the technical sector in general. I think the chance to attract more women is innovation. Anyway, we are going through changes that require the adoption of new technologies, and women have this ability to adapt to changes and adopt new technologies. In addition, the mentoring and role models we can offer every day.”


Miruna Suciu: Women sacrifice their personal time with more selflessness and without regret

“Particularly, in the economic field of law, women are better represented than in other fields. Starting with law schools, female graduates exceed 50-60%. But if you look at the top law firms in the big cities, you’ll see that only 10-20% of the management are women, with a few exceptions. In law firms, it is well understood that there is a level of equity partners, who are the ones who put financial successes to the test and bear the financial risks, but also the benefits. And there I could say that the percentage of female partners is even lower, below 10%, which is very worrying”, says Miruna Suciu, Managing Partner at Suciu Popa.

“In the last 25 years, more steps have been taken, things have improved. Today, compared to 25 years ago, the number of law firms has increased tenfold, but the same did not happen with women in management structures. Although, when looking for employees, they are primarily looking for women. Because they work better, I say this without disparaging men, but women work with more dedication and sacrifice, at least in law firms. Even if they have so much to do at home. In general, women sacrifice their personal time more selflessly and without regret. That is why I can say with certainty that women are less represented than they should be in the legal profession.

But I would like to say one more thing: in states with much older democracy than in Romania, in Western Europe, the situation is even worse. In Eastern Europe, we find that there are more female lawyers who reach management positions and in a shorter time. And this is another matter: in Romania, where women have reached leadership positions, they have reached it faster than they would in Western countries, where the culture is more traditional from this point of view.

Because, yes, law, like many other business sectors, is generally a rather masculinized and masculinizing job. But it’s up to us to remain feminine, nothing prevents us from doing it, being leaders and being whatever we want. I think that a better diversity would also come from stronger legislative initiatives at the European level.

In general, business boards are dominated by men. Of course, in multinationals the trends come from the group, they are not decided locally. But, yes, it is a problem at the European level. The peaks are the northern states, with which we do not have much in common, that is why I campaign for legislative initiatives regarding the percentage of women who can access certain leadership positions.”


Estera Anghelescu: Diversity is part of the Kaufland’s DNA

“In Kaufland, diversity is part of the company’s DNA. We mainly follow four directions, one of them is the recruitment and integration of people with disabilities. We initially proposed, in 2019, when we started this program, to integrate 500 people, meanwhile the number has increased and we want to reach 1,000 people. Currently we have reached over 450; we started from the inside, to see what they need, to understand the needs of their colleagues. We also have job announcements dedicated to these people”, says Estera Anghelescu, Recruiting & Employer Branding Director at Kaufland Romania.

“The second direction is equal opportunities. We at Kaufland have over 70% of the total of over 17,000 female employees. Somewhere around 52% of them are managers. For two years we have also had two female colleagues on the board out of a total of seven members. I wish we had more women on the board. I started from the bottom, I’ve been working in the company for 18 years, and I went through several departments to this position.

The announcements we give specify that they are for both women and men, and salaries are transparent for all executive roles, regardless of gender.
The third direction is age diversity, we have jobs for teenagers from 16 years old, whom we guide through different programs. We have a total of over 17 nationalities, this being the fourth direction in which we are going.

We have several Employer Branding projects, last year we also had the Grand Job Experience, the first store created in the virtual environment, used by the young generation. There I described and assigned jobs that could be practiced in the online environment and which could later be done in the offline environment. We often have promotion programs for colleagues who come from other cultures, on the multicultural side, we like to be proud of what we have in the company. Only a diverse team can bring sustainable results.”


A big thank you goes out to the event’s partners, speakers and moderator, the on-site audience, and all those who support gender equality & women empowerment in Romania!

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